Decolonizing the Boundaries: Indigenous Musical Discourse in the History of Kurdish Radio Baghdad


  • Jon Bullock University of Chicago


Kurds, Iraq, Radio Baghdad, Indigeneity, Decolonization, Folk/Popular Divide


Divided between empires and nation-states for centuries the Kurds have, by and large, been excluded from discourses of indigeneity. In a similar manner, musical practice among the Kurds cannot be easily cajoled into Western categories such as folk/popular. How then might scholars begin to approach the decolonization of research describing Kurdish musical practice? In this article, I propose that one important step in this process is learning to pay closer attention to the ways Kurdish musicians themselves have challenged the colonial legacy, adeptly navigating, challenging, and sometimes simply ignoring the political, linguistic, and cultural boundaries established by their colonizers. As an example of this practice, I describe key moments of resistance in the early history of Kurdish Radio Baghdad. I argue that accepting these acts of resistance as a form of indigenous musical discourse is an important first step toward the decolonization of Western knowledge in this regard.

Author Biography

Jon Bullock, University of Chicago

Jon Bullock is a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago.



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